The Journey of Aging Well
with helpful tips for family caregivers
June is a great time to travel. Consider accessible national parks as a destination. It’s also Home Safety Month and a great time to give the old homestead a review with an eye to reducing injury.
Accessible national parks
Does your family enjoy vacations in the great outdoors? Even if a family member is challenged by a disabling condition, options exist. Many parks across the country offer special accommodations.
The National Park Service has made it easy to find accessible options nationwide. Discover national parks with:
- Accessible trails. These trails have a firm and stable surface. In fact, some are wood boardwalks. All are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair, but not all of them are flat. Look for information on slope to determine difficulty. For instance, most of the South Rim Trail of the Grand Canyon is paved. There are accessible shuttles for steep sections of the trail that have grades exceeding accessibility standards.
- Accessible opportunities. Some parks offer touchable exhibits for the visually impaired. Others have hearing systems that help amplify the sound of the ranger’s voice on a tour. Some parks have cabins that were built to accommodate wheelchairs. And some have unique excursions, such as a specialized wheelchair for exploring the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado.
- Accessible vistas. These sites have special parking or other accommodations. Enjoy viewing a 45-foot waterfall at Alabama’s Little River Canyon.
- Accessible camping. A number of national parks offer accessible campsites. These may have surfaces that are more groomed and stable, and restrooms that accommodate wheelchairs. Does family camping in Hawai’i sound fun? You might want to stay at Kulanaokuaiki Campground in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
If your loved one has a permanent disability, get an Access Pass. This lifetime pass provides free entry to national parks for your family member. It also covers up to three adults traveling in the same car.
The options identified at the National Park Service website represent a sampling of possibilities. Don’t give up if a park you have in mind isn’t listed. Type its name into the search bar at the National Park Service home page. At the park’s website, check for information about disabled access to park features.
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Avoiding crises with COPD
With periodic flare-ups and dashes to the ER, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when caring for a loved one with a lung condition, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The COPD Management Tool, developed by the American Lung Association, empowers you to help your loved one prevent crises through better management of the disease. Several simple forms guide you in communicating with the doctor so you are all on the same page. Best of all, the forms take the guesswork out of decision making on those days when symptoms start to flare.
The tool has two components:
- The COPD Management/Action Plan. Complete this one-page document with the doctor. The first section, in blue, summarizes your loved one’s current lung conditions and the doctor’s basic treatment plan. The “COPD Action Plan” section provides at-a-glance descriptions of what to do, depending on how your loved one is feeling. It groups symptoms into good days (green), bad days (yellow), and emergency situations (red). Review these descriptions with the doctor so you and your loved one will know what to do in each case.
- The COPD Report Card. This two-page form helps you give your care providers a quick snapshot of how things have been going since your last visit. Before a routine check-up, use it to summarize symptoms. During a flare-up, refer to it to describe recent symptoms for emergency personnel.
The forms take only minutes to complete. And once the management and action plans are in hand, you and your loved one will find it much easier to know what to do when symptoms get worse. Now that’s a plan for staying out of the ER!Return to top
Making the home safer
Most hazards around the home are obvious once you are made aware of them. But they are easily overlooked in the course of day-to-day living.
Don’t let your loved one get injured because of a simple oversight!
Here’s a home safety audit you can do yourself.
Lighting. In every room of the house, you want to be sure there is even light from the center and to all corners. Those little objects that cause a stumble frequently hide in the shadows. A common location for a fall is moving at night from the bedroom to the bathroom. Place nightlights along the path to light the way for sleepy eyes and a body in a hurry. Stairs and wet or icy walkways also pose extra dangers for a fall, so be especially sure to keep those areas well lit.
Floors. Remove all throw rugs if you can. Or put sticky tape on the underside to pin corners down and keep the rug from slipping. Keep pathways open and tidy. Pick up piles of paper, shoes, boxes, towels and trip hazards. Find alternate paths for cords and wires, or tape them down to the floor.
Stairs. Be sure to fix uneven or loose stairs. Handrails should be securely fastened to the wall. The edge of the stairs should be painted a bright color with non-stick tread on the surface. If stairs are carpeted, be sure the carpet is securely nailed down.
Bathroom. Bathrooms are particularly dangerous as they combine hard and often wet and slippery surfaces. Be sure to use rubber-backed non-skid rugs and apply a non-skid mat or decals in the tub or shower floor. Grab bars by the shower and toilet are a must. And a toilet seat riser is a good idea if your loved one is at all unsteady rising up from a chair in the living room.Return to top